Eastern versus Western Logic

In the West, our entire system of logic and science is built on a model which was inherited from Greek thought. It is dualistic; it is either/or, either something is true or it is not. It is sequential, with one thing happening after another, in order. Our culture has been developed in this way, and it has led to remarkable progress in the physical world, whether in science or in economics. However, until recently, with the development of "chaos theory", the West has had no way to incorporate randomness and change into our scientific thought.

In the East, logic and thought is pluralistic; it is and/also, and can support apparently conflicting patterns of thought. Life is seen as both sequences, unique and progressive, and also as a pattern of natural cycles which occur again and again. It can support both science and myth, both the tangible and the mystical. It has as its basis the Tao; the "way". Even Taoism exists in two forms, the religious and the scientific. It sees a functioning, practical mix of the ultimate and the pedestrian in daily life. There is also the concept of form arising from energy. This is given lip-service in the West, but Eastern medicine and philosophy belief in practice that form and function arise from an original energy pattern. Only in Western quantum physics does this last concept find acceptance. We are all persistent patterns of coherent, intelligent energy, a merging of the states of particles and waves. It is both/and; not either/or.

In the West, we refer to the "spiritual" in contrast with the physical [or emotional, or mental]. Some Eastern traditions refer to the physical as an emanation of the spiritual. One can be physically spiritual [or emotionally spiritual, or mentally spiritual]. The physical does not exclude the spiritual.  Being physical can be an powerful expression of spirituality. Perhaps it is the only way that a human being can approach the spiritual effectively, since we cannot escape being physical, emotional, and mental. We may reject everything of the physical, mental, and emotional to insure that we become spiritual, but we are still physical, mental, and emotional - all of which constitute our spirituality. Again, it is not either/or; it is both/and.

Other dualities in the West which are merged into oneness in the East include unique/universal, here/everywhere, mystical/practical, one/dual, real/fantasy, and alive/inert. An example of what we forget uses the image of the hand. Consider that as we age, we get farther away from our common roots. It is like a hand in which we focus more and more on the tips of the fingers. They are unique, standing alone, with nothing in common with other fingertips except a crude similarity. We ignore the fact that all fingers share a common hand, and gain their motion and sensitivity from long-forgotten connections with a common brain. This also brings to mind Jung's concepts of syncronicity and the shared collective subconscious. As individuals, we forget our common connection with each other, and the power of that energy from a common source which enables us to maintain our "uniqueness". we look at a rock and see only something inert. We cannot identify with the immense energy activity going on in that location which we call "rock". It does not fit our intellectual and spiritual needs to do so.

There is a role for a combination of these two ways of thinking. We must look at both the foreground of our data, as well as at the background of influences and long-term, even timeless, ultimate rhythms. Just as the East is benefiting from Western science, the West needs to learn to be in harmony with the patterns of eternity. It is not a question of sacrificing one for the other; it is a process of broadening our awarenesses to include the universal in our everyday lives.